as Arctic char, accompanied by cilantro
chimichurri and black rice and a fine
selection of island wines.
The next day took us to the southeast
side of Mayne Island, where boaters need
to pay strict attention to the charts that
show a maze of islets, shoals, and reefs.
After tying up at Mayne Island Resort’s
dock that evening, we feasted at Bennett
Bay Bistro while seated on a sweeping
deck overlooking the namesake waters.
To round out our explorations, we
headed south along Plumper Channel
to Saturna Island,
easternmost of the
Gulf Islands. At
Crocker Point, on the
southwest coast, we
tied up at a rickety
dock in a sheltered
cove to check out
Saturna Island Winery,
a sweeping 60-acre
site encompassing four
the growing season is
short, the south-facing
slopes are sheltered by 1,600-foot-high
cliffs that block cold northern winds
and reflect the sun’s heat onto the vines
below. The tasting room and beautiful café
terrace face south across Boundary Pass.
We docked at Saturna Lighthouse Pub,
with a sunny seafront deck at the ferry
dock at Lyall Harbour. Although we don’t
usually indulge at lunch, we ordered two
glasses of Saturna Island Pinot Gris to go
with our fish and chips. Feeling fortunate
for all we’d seen on our journey, we also felt
melancholy. It was time to turn Freelance
for home. Risa and I clinked a toast to the
hardy wine pioneers of these islands, who
are confronted with arguably the most
demanding growing conditions imaginable – a short growing season, limited
sunshine, a marine environment, the threat
of frost, and the legendary Northwest rain.
But despite the inherent challenges, they
produce award-winning wines, an ample
selection of which we’d stored safely aboard
Freelance to enjoy in the months ahead.
Peter Schroeder is a Seattle-based freelance
marine writer and photographer. He and
his wife, Risa Wyatt, a freelance food-and-wine writer, have a five-acre Syrah
vineyard in Sonoma, California.
1. Boaters Guide: Peter Vassilopoulos’ Gulf Islands Cruising Guide (Pacific Marine
Publishing), colorfully illustrated, gives detailed info on routes, anchorages, marinas, facilities, and historical notes. The Dreamspeaker Guide to the Gulf Islands and
Vancouver Island offers charts, tips, and shoreline plans of selected marinas and
2. Canadian Customs: Boaters arriving from U.S. waters can get info and clear
customs at government docks (painted red) on Vancouver Island at Sidney and
Victoria, or on South Pender Island at Poet’s Cove. It’s illegal to stop or anchor
in Canadian waters before checking in. Contact Canadian Customs for current
restrictions on food and other items. See http://boating.ncf.ca/canadaborder.html
3. Ferries: They’re big and seem to be everywhere, suddenly appearing out of
nowhere just as they round an island’s tip. The BC Ferries fleet includes the world’s
largest double-ended ferries, which can carry 370 autos and 1,650 passengers. They
cruise at 16 to 18 knots even when navigating the narrowest of channels.
4. Tides: Be alert for the “king tides” (highest), that can range between 15 to 19 feet
and cause churning rapids and swift currents. Prudent boaters wait for slack before
navigating narrow passages.
5. Orcas: This cruising area is home to 70 whales in three resident pods as well as
several transient pods. If you encounter orcas, Canadian regulations require you to
slow to less than 7 knots within 400 yards and maintain a distance of at least 100
yards from the closest whale.
6. Swimming: The water is generally too cold for swimming. But there are locals’
secret warm-water areas, notably on the west side of Thetis Island and the islands
farther north where there’s limited tidal exchange.
7. Weather: Expect rain from November to May; summer months are remarkably
rain-free. Prevailing winds average 5 to 10 knots and range from northwest to
southwest. Average daytime summer temps vary from the high 60s F to mid-80s F.
Beware of sudden winds, fog, and storm conditions that can quickly channel through
8. Currency: U.S. dollars are accepted everywhere. — P.S.
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